In Dallas, geography is destiny.
That's the unavoidable conclusion from a recent study by Stand for Children, a Texas nonprofit, which crunched incarceration and college-preparedness rates in Dallas, ZIP code by ZIP code.
"It became immediately obvious that a small number of zip codes send a lot more inmates to prison than neighboring zip codes, including ones of similar demographic makeup," Mithcell Savage, executive director of Stand for Children's Dallas chapter, wrote in a blog post. "Just ten Dallas zip codes have sent more than 3,100 prisoners into Texas prisons, at an annual cost to the state of $137 million."
Those same zip codes, all but one in southern Dallas, also have some of the lowest college-ready graduation rates in the state. Out of 3,000 freshmen in the class of 2011, data compiled from the Texas Education Agency indicates that exactly 26 -- less than one percent -- were ready for college.
There's a phrase for this: the cradle-to-prison pipeline.
In its editorial this morning, the Morning News' includes a table showing the ZIP codes -- 75216; 75217; 75215; 75241; 75228; 75212; 75211; 75232; 75203; 75224 -- and the high schools they feed into.
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The paper praises efforts by Superintendent MIke Miles to focus his reform efforts on the district's 22 feeder patterns, which, by looking at the entire elementary-to-high school pipeline, offers a better chance to intervene early in a child's educational career.
Adequately funding schools and ensuring they have solid teachers and administrators is a start, but it's not enough, which is what Stand for Children is getting at.
"It is very important to remember that because these cycles are so entrenched and long-standing, no single change can reverse these trends," Mitchell told the Morning News. "No educator, trustee, or administrator can stand alone to reverse the effects of cyclical poverty on education."
Schools, in other words, aren't the only answer. But they're not a bad place to start.